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Over the Drawbar-Lines

A pianist’s guide to getting started on organ

Gary Versace

Committing to the piano begins an amazing journey. For the improvising musician it’s beyond exciting, given that the textural, registral, timbral and polyphonic capabilities of the instrument are infinite. Of course the piano is not without certain sound and timbral limitations. The breath, sustain and vibrato in melodic lines that vocalists and woodwind players possess, and the ability to provide the depth of sound and rhythmic clarity that come with being a great bass player, have become hallmarks of the jazz organ sound that can help a pianist reinterpret the limitations of the 88s.

With its focus on accompaniment in a jazz setting, the organ reminds us as keyboardists of some very simple and beautiful aspects of music-making. But any pianist interested in playing organ (particularly the Hammond B-3) will face certain musical challenges, beyond the physical setting of a new instrument.

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